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Shevi'i Shel Pesah- Achieving True Freedom

Over the years, when running Torah learning programs for youngsters, I would occasionally receive complaints from the parents. They were concerned that I was teaching their sons too much Torah, and they were learning more than they should.

I replied with an analogy to a mother who received a prescription from the doctor for her son. The doctor told her that the son needs to take a teaspoon of the medicine each day for a certain period of time. She went to the pharmacy and filled the prescription. To her surprise, the pharmacist wrote on the bottle to give the son a tablespoon each day. The woman told the pharmacist that he must have made a mistake, because she distinctly remembers the doctor telling her to give the child only a teaspoon. The pharmacist showed her the prescription, which stated clearly that the boy needs a tablespoon.

The woman figured that the doctor must have made a mistake when he wrote the prescription, and so she gave the boy only a teaspoon each day.

The days went by, and the period prescribed by the doctor ended. The child did not get better.

The mother returned to the doctor, who asked whether she gave the child a tablespoon of medicine each day. She replied that she gave only a teaspoon, because this is what he had told her verbally.

The doctor explained, "I wrote specifically that you need to give him a tablespoon, because I know that kids spit out about half the medicine. If you give them a tablespoon, they’ll ingest a teaspoon, which is what they need. You gave him only a teaspoon, and he spit out some – so not enough medicine was ingested to cure him!"

This is true of Torah, as well.

Half of the Torah that our youngsters learn will likely be neutralized by the lures and influences of modern society. They will be left with only half of what they learn. We need to give them a higher "dose" of Torah so that enough will remain within them to have the desired impact.

The Sefirat Ha’omer period links Pesach – the celebration of our Exodus from Egypt – to Shabuot – the celebration of our receiving the Torah. These two must be linked, because otherwise, we are not truly "free." On Pesach, we were freed from our subservience to Pharaoh, but this is not enough. This freedom created a vacuum that needed to be filled by Matan Torah, by our subservience to Hashem. The value of Pesach lies in its connection to Shabuot, in our using our freedom for the purpose of serving G-d. If we had achieved freedom without then committing to G-d’s service, then the vacuum would have been filled by other, far less noble, pursuits, in which case our freedom would have lost its value.

One of the symbols of the Pesach Seder is the egg. Rabbi Yishak Mirsky (contemporary), in his Hegyoneh Halacha commentary to the Haggadah, explains that the egg symbolizes the two-stage process of our nation’s redemption. Unlike mammals, who deliver their young directly, birds produce offspring in two stages – they lay an egg, and then incubate the egg until it hatches and a new bird emerges. Similarly, our departure from Egypt was the first stage, and Matan Torah was the second. Our redemption could not be said to be complete when we were freed from Egyptian bondage – because the freedom from Egypt needs to lead to subservience to G-d, as otherwise it will lead to "subservience" to vanity and sin.

The Torah says about the pit into which Yosef was cast, "….the pit was empty; it had no water" (Bereshit 37:24). The Talmud (Shabbat 22a) famously comments, "It had no water – but it had snakes and scorpions." Later commentators noted that this description of the pit aptly describes the human mind, as well. If it is not filled with "water" – with Torah, our source of spiritual life – then it will be filled by "snakes and scorpions" – harmful spiritual forces.

True freedom does not mean being "empty," having no obligations, commitments or responsibilities – because such "freedom" quickly evolves into subservience to bad habits and sinful conduct. The vacuum will not remain. We are truly free only if we fill our time, our minds and our lives with "water," with Torah learning and Misva observance, whereby we live our lives the way they are supposed to be lived.

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